Fixing healthcare IT

We could learn a few things about healthcare IT from talking with a Cuban auto mechanic.  For decades, they’ve been forced by necessity to do more with less, and compromise on features while focusing on efficient use of resources.  So what’s the tie to healthcare IT?

Healthcare is broken.  OK, maybe it’s not completely broken but it is leaking oil and CEOs are finding it harder and harder to find the mechanic and the manual to fix it.  Hospitals are losing money, piling up debt, and seeing downgrades in their credit ratings. The bottom line is that everyone is going to have to find ways to do more with less and there’s no better place to start, than IT.

“Hospital IT is inherently inefficient,” says Mike Feld, interim CTO at Baystate Health and CEO of VertitechIT.  “But if we simply looked at standardization, we could save time, money, and resources that would make even the most jaded bean-counter sit up and take notice!”

Hospitals have literally thousands of applications but use just a fraction of the features built into them.  And while all may have their own unique qualities, many applications can perform the same functions.  The result is more expense, more manpower needed to service them, and capital dependence to keep things current. 

You may need to compromise on features but reducing the number of vendors and making broader use of a smaller number of products, can have a dramatic bottom line impact.  Feld says to “Ask yourself if 95% of what I want from these twelve areas work with a couple of products, rather 12 different products fulfilling 95% of my needs.” 

Standardization also has a trickle down effect on personnel resources.  More efficient programs and processes free up people to be redeployed to work on projects that have been neglected for lack of available time and manpower. 

On the architecture side, standardizing compute, network, and storage on commodity hardware using software-defined methodologies will also offer up significant savings.  Hyper-convergence makes your network more efficient and allows for the elimination of personnel silos as teams of people dedicated to each area now work as one.  It also makes them more effective, reducing service provisioning and delivery time from days and weeks to in some cases, just hours.

In Cuba, doing more with less is a way of life.  There’s an IT lesson in there somewhere.  

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